Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) called on President Joe Biden on Wednesday to help provide Internet access to Cubans following reports that blackouts left many citizens on the island without online communication.
“I write to urge you to assist in providing Internet access to the people of Cuba standing up against communist oppression and demanding a voice after decades of suffering under the yoke of a cruel dictatorship,” the Republican governor wrote in the letter (pdf).
The communist regime has reportedly disrupted Cubans from their online communications in the wake of the biggest anti-government protests in decades, global internet monitoring company NetBlocks said.
Introduced just over two years ago, mobile internet has been a key factor for Cubans to express their views and frustrations on the communist regime while also providing them with a platform to enable the word to get out quickly when people are on the street.
“For many days no one here has been able to connect because they cut the [internet] connection,” Cuban citizen Andrea López told Reuters. “On the first days they cut the calls, they cut everything. My husband is in Mexico, I haven’t been able to talk to him. Nothing. All of this is how they [the Cuban regime] want it.”
Protests erupted in multiple cities across the island nation on July 11, with citizens calling for greater freedoms and an end to the communist dictatorship. More than 100 protesters have been arrested and injured, including some police officers—though the regime did not specify how many people or officials were affected. One death was also reported by authorities on Tuesday as police and protesters clashed amid the nationwide protests.
“As you know, the Cuban people are taking to the streets to protest the Communist regime, and the Cuban government has responded with violence,” DeSantis said. “At first, the world could see the images and videos of this mass movement, but now the tyrannical regime of President Miguel Diaz-Canel has shut off access to the internet.”
“The Cuban people have lost their ability to communicate with one another, and many Floridians born in Cuba have no information on the safety of their loved ones,” he added, noting that access to the internet is of “critical importance” as they protest against “the repressive Communist government.”
“In the hands of these brave individuals, such access may be the key to finally bringing democracy to the island,” DeSantis concluded in the letter.
A similar message was sent to the Biden administration by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who urged the U.S. government to facilitate open and free internet access for Cubans.
“Without it, the Cuban people, who yearn for basic political and economic freedoms, can more easily be monitored, suppressed, detained, and brutalized by the regime without accountability,” the Republican senator wrote. “Bringing free and open internet will help the Cuban people communicate with one another without censorship and repression and show them that the world stands beside them in their quest for liberty.”
Reuters contributed to this report.